UPDATE: Roadhouses are again able to serve dine in meals, but only if they comply with strict social distancing and contagion prevention requirements.

Australia is stepping up its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and as a result many businesses are being forced into lockdown, and the list of effected businesses is growing daily.  While retail fuel sites are not included in the list of locked down businesses, restaurants are, which has led to the question – what about roadhouses?  Initially they remained trading as usual, only to move to ‘take away meals only’ earlier last week (24/3/2020) as the lockdown measures were expanded, but now they are again able to serve dine in meals provided they comply with strict social distancing and contagion prevention requirements.  The reason for the latest change in tack is the important role that Roadhouses play in the fatigue management plans for the nations truck drivers.

Without trucks, Australia stops.  This has always been true, but in the face of the current crisis it is especially poignant.  The announcement that they can now stop for a feed and sit somewhere other than their cab is a welcome one.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said in a statement; “We have heard their concerns loud and clear and this is a common sense solution which ensures heavy vehicle drivers have access to essential amenities, can take regular breaks and eat properly whilst delivering their vital cargo”.

“Roadside service stations, roadhouses and truck driver lounges provide a vital function allowing truck drivers to eat, shower, use restrooms, refuel and rest comfortably before resuming their work – which is critical for them to continue efficient and safe freight distribution across the country,” said McCormack.

“I thank the AHPPC and the National Cabinet for agreeing to these common-sense changes for the benefit of our truckies.”

So, as at today 31/3/2020 Roadhouses, that is fuel retail sites that offer dine in meals, are able to offer dine in meals in addition to take away, as long as they can demonstrate that they are meeting the Safe Roadhouse Dining requirements;

  • Tables are only for Heavy Vehicle Drivers  
  • Tables are at least 3 metres away from each other and the counter
  • There is no more than 1 chair at each table
  • There are no more than X  customers in the dining/ordering area at a time (maximum of one at the counter and one at each of the tables)
  • All tables and chairs are cleaned and sanitised after any use and otherwise at least hourly

ANY ROADHOUSE THAT CANNOT MEET THESE REQURIEMENTS SHOULD REMOVE ALL TABLES AND CHAIRS AND SHOULD SERVE TAKE AWAY MEALS ONLY

For Truckies Lounge Areas;

  • Social distance should be maintained
  • Tables and chairs should be cleaned and sanitised after any use and otherwise at least hourly

Note:  for seating that cannot be sanitised, such as soft furnishings like couches, they should be covered with plastic cover that can be sanitised or should be removed or otherwise noted as not for use.

What should Roadhouses be doing now?

  1. Assess if you can still offer dining and meet the Safe Roadhouse Dining requirements (if you cannot then you should restrict to Take-away only)
  2. Set a cleaning and sanitising schedule that includes the dining areas and communicate to your staff
  3. Post the Keeping Customers and Staff Safe – Dine In Posters prominently in the Dine in area to communicate expectations and ensure compliance – Click here for a copy of the poster; https://acapmag.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Keeping-Customers-and-Staff-Safe-Dine-In-Trukkies-Only.pdf
  4. Decommission or mark with the Keeping Customers and Staff Safe – DO NOT SITE HERE posters, any furniture that can not be moved or used in accordance with the Safe Roadhouse Dining requirements – this could include outdoor seating that can not have chairs removed or can not be sanitised effectively, or even furniture in Truckies Lounges that can not be sanitised but is impractical to remove. Click here for a copy of the poster; https://acapmag.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Keeping-Customers-and-Staff-Safe-DO-NOT-SIT-HERE.pdf
  5. Plan to review the effectiveness of the posters and furniture in achieving appropriate social distancing

A Roadhouse is not a restaurant, it is a retail fuel site that also serves dine in food.  As such it is not subject to the lockdowns that applied to restaurants. HOWEVER, the expansion of the contagion control measures have resulted in a clear indication that we need to, as an industry, ensure that we and the public are doing our part to flatten the curve.

Roadhouses are an essential part of the rest and relief plan for the country’s truck drivers and mobile workers, offering a place to stretch, rest and refuel, not just their vehicles, but their bodies and minds.  There is an old saying that ‘without trucks, Australia stops’, it is a truth that is even more pressing in light of the current crisis faced by the nation and retail fuel sites, including Roadhouses, play an important role in keeping the trucks moving.  Retail Fuel Sites and Roadhouses remain open for business with a continued focus on keeping our customers and communities safe.

ACAPMA